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Thread: Thinking of earning from photography?

  1. #1

    Default Thinking of earning from photography?

    I've to start off with a disclaimer. I'm probably the least qualified to be making this thread to give advice on commercial photography. But this is my 2 cents I can afford to give back to the community I had benefitted from. This is a feeble attempt to "educate" those who need advice on making money. Hopefully, a more consolidated one where other professionals and experienced part-timers can correct me where I am wrong, and add on to what I have to say.

    Another disclaimer is, the intended audience of this thread is for the uninitiated. If you are experienced professional, part-time photographer who have already established your own business practices, feel free to correct me, or add on. It's not meant to dispute your practices.

    The intention of this thread is for those who want to gain more experience, more exposure by going into commercial photography. Here, I loosely define commercial photography as paid photography.

    Introduction
    You have your nifty DSLR and some assortment of lens you are pretty happy with. You got a few keeper shots at your cousin/friend's wedding. You bought a light tent and some basic lighting setups and did some product shots you're happy with. You had been shooting runways at Junction 8 and was pleased with what you saw. In a nutshell, you feel ready to take on the world of commercial photography. Hey, I enjoy doing it, why not make some money while doing it right? Cover my investment!

    Obligation:
    As with all paid services, the payer has certain demands and expectations. These expectations could be straightforward and explicit. But some demands could be tacit and only surface when 'things go wrong'. I'll go into this list of 'things gone wrong' later. The demands can be in terms of the number of shots. The angles of shots, the colours, digital enhancements, prints, print sizes, form of presentation, punctuality, time-extension, change in dates. It would be good to come up with an exhaustive list as far as possible on what is expected of the deal, as well as agreed clauses to defend your interests, and allow your client to add on. Please add on the list of obligation from here.

    Consequences of not fulfilling obligation:
    I'll let 'pros' like vince fill in the legal obligations, or the lack of here. One of the other consequence is reputation. This is applicable to those who are more serious who want to consistently take on more assignments. For not fulfilling the obligation or expectation of the payer, the degree of hurt can vary. It can hurt very badly for wedding photography. The word gets circulated amongst brides faster than an expensive ad in the magazine. And the bad reputation can last for a long time. It wouldn't bother you if you're just in for a quick thrill and quick buck. But if you're serious about making it your part time job, or even full time career, it is extremely difficult to rebuild a hurt reputation. At least for wedding photography. Feel free to add on other consequences from here.

    What can go wrong?
    It could be as simple as your flash not working. Or your CF card failed you. Failure of CF cards is a major nightmare for photographers. As well as hard disk crashes. Frequent backups and transfer of data from old storage devices to new ones are a good idea. Also bring sufficient CF cards in case you encounter an exceptionally rich event to cover. Plan for the focal lengths your require for the shoot, which is often dependent on the venue. Also be prepared that the DSLR can suddenly stop working. Or the CF card you brought home after the shoot doesn't have any images in there. Or you don't have enough batteries for the flash or the body. Or the lens AF mechanism failed, and you are lousy with MF. It can be other people interfering with your shoot. People in the way doesn't mean you don't need to deliver. What happens when people get in your way? What happens if you cannot tell this people off or push them away? Predict and pre-empt these situations. Experience can help. Otherwise you need to be quick to react and respond on the spot.
    Last edited by shinken; 12th May 2010 at 01:36 PM.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Thinking of earning from photography?

    Costs
    Fine, you have already paid for your DSLR, your kit lens, your CF card, and your flash. You feel that this expenditure is for your hobby, and need not be considered as cost. However, be mindful everytime you consider new purchases as a result of commercial shoot. For instance, if you are going to buy a spare body just in case your main one fails during the shoot, have you factored that in your cost? You wouldn't have needed the spare body if not for the fact that you are going into commercial photography right? So whatever additional equipment you want to purchase in order to fulfill the obligations of commercial photography, factor that into your cost.

    What can be part of the cost?
    Camera Equipment consisting of bodies, lenses, flash and such.
    Support equipment like bags, tripods, studio equipments (which u wudn't have bought) and such.
    Transport (Be mindful that there's a certain risk tied to dependence on public transport)
    Food (Unless the payment is "in kind", don't assume they'll let you join in. For weddings that is)
    Materials costs (albums, prints, hardware and software necessary to deliver whatever promised)
    Please add on other fixed costs from here.

    What should be part of the cost?
    Well this applies differently to different people. But one important factor is time. Most people has the attitude that "I enjoy what I'm doing, so I don't need to be paid for my time". That's all well and good. But when you start to consider charging for time, consider charging for the time you need to spend to fulfill the obligations of commercial photography.

    Another cost is depreciation. Your camera would not wear and tear so quickly if you don't shoot commercially. Photographers who shoot commercially are also tempted to upgrade a lot sooner than they would have as a hobbyist. Often, we are tempted to get the added edge the new camera can give us to snag that shot. You wouldn't need to clean the sensor so often. Your shutter count won't be so high if we weren't' shooting commercially, or the flash would have lasted for decades. You wouldn't be selling your Tamron 28-75 for that more expensive lens. It would be wise if you consider depreciation as part of your cost.

    If your ultimate goal is 'covering your investment':
    I've seen many of my friends who started out as a hobbyist and walk into this cycle. They started to get enticed by the promise of better photography by investing in better equipment as they started to shoot for money. Because they work part-time, it's easier for them to get jobs by pricing low. Which in return requires them to invest further in equipment. This friend now has more expensive equipment than I do, and have to spend all her weekends either shooting for money or trying to find photography work. She starts to sound like a seasoned photographer. Lamenting how this is not worth it. Her husband complained to me by the side how she's neglecting her family in her 'hobby'. She tells me how her husband is not appreciating her 'trying to bring in more money', while at the same time upgrading her equipment with no caution and careful accounting.

    If your ultimate goal is to cover your initial investment, all the more it's prudent to monitor the expenditure on photography and how much income your should derive to cover this expenditure.
    Last edited by shinken; 12th May 2010 at 01:41 PM.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Thinking of earning from photography?

    suggest to make this thread a sticky.
    you can buy better gear but you can't buy a better eye

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Thinking of earning from photography?

    Oh I want to add, "when you hard disks crashed" Yup, agree with Zaren, should be a sticky.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Thinking of earning from photography?

    Contract/Agreement/Terms of Service
    I highly recommend any photographers to incorporate at least an agreement as part of their business practice. The terms in the agreement should ideally safeguard the interest of both the photographer and the clients. I would strongly advise against performing a service without first having an agreement signed. The photographer could have unknowingly given up certain rights (such as copyrights, rights to usage for portfolio purposes etc) which could be both frustrating and detrimental for the business. Furthermore, without a clear agreement, many demands made by clients after the assignment can lead to dispute. For example, I have a clause in my agreement that indemnifies me from having to deliver any specific image or specific style, as the wedding (since I'm a wedding photography specialist) is a largely uncontrolled event. This clause is highly important, especially in events whereby disputes are raised on why certain images weren't taken, or the quality being unacceptable.

    On the same note, to be fair to clients, I would also urge working photographers on paid jobs to uphold the integrity and professionalism of photography in Singapore. One of the ways is to let clients have a clear idea of what they would be getting in terms of both the deliverable products as well as quality of photography. In this way, it is less likely for clients to form any unrealistic expectations on their own

    Before I digress too far from my point, it is extremely important to be sure of what's agreeable and what's not for you as a working photographer. If you don't mind giving up your copyrights, no prob. So it needn't be a feature in the agreement. But certain clauses like limit to liability can be useful to safeguard against a potential financial disaster. Don't be rushed into performing a service before an agreement is signed. Because by then, many issues can be open to dispute and likely need to be left to external arbitration in order to resolve a dispute.


    How much should I charge?
    Prices can range very widely in the wedding photography industry. Some people try to use the industry price when doing your own pricing, but that can be very difficult. The industry price is very wide-ranging. Even for wedding photographers, it can range from anything between $500 - $10000+ for an actual day wedding. I just learned a new low from another thread - that's $300 plus. I won't be surprised if it goes lower. If the industry "average" is hard to gauge, go back to your costs: list them down and make it as exhaustive as possible, give them a long and hard look, do a detailed caculation, and decide on your price.

    How much do I deserve?
    This is the "integrity" some forumers are talking about. Are you willing to work for free because of your passion? Search deeply within yourself for the answer. If you feel that even if you are passionate, you still deserve to be paid, as the service you are providing has commercial value in nature - then you have to decide how much you deserve. If you are bundling coffee-tables and collages, how much is your design worth? How much is the time for your design worth? Would an artist who is passionate in his/her craft give away his/her sculpture away as "part of a package"?

    How to decide on your worth?
    I have no answer here. The quickest way to seal a deal in commercial photography for beginners is through pricing. Think about it this way. The $200 you are charging for 6 hours of photography today, means that tomorrow, the next assignment that comes along will expect the price of $200 for 6 hours of photography. This will go on until you find some way to move up the ladder. If your solution is only through price, does that mean when the next customer that comes along who offers $200 for 10 hours, you will take it? Typically, if enough photographers who want to break into the industry by offering a price lower than the industry expectation, then the this price line will be lowered for good. Say for instance 100 newbies enter the market and charge $500, then the norm becomes $500. And if the same $500 wishes to raise their prices once they get their portfolio, then they become more expensive than the industrial average. For the photography industry to stay healthy and viable in the long run, the bottom line has to stay at realistic level.

    If I have to share my experience, then for myself, my very first paid assignment is in excess of $300 for 2 hours of work for an ROM. And my work is not a fraction as good as what's showcased in the forums here. Your work could well be way better than mine. I had lots of people asking me to charge lower. But since I had a full-time job back then, I said no, and waited. That's just me of course. Others can feel free to share their experiences.
    Last edited by shinken; 12th May 2010 at 01:43 PM. Reason: Updating with new information

  6. #6

    Default Re: Thinking of earning from photography?

    Frustrations in paid photography
    Contrary to popular beliefs, lower-end clients do not mean lower expectations. It is quite the opposite, as far as my experience goes. The less they are willing to pay, the likelihood of them expecting more is higher. Doesn't make sense right? I spent 6 months fulfilling the demands of my lowest paying client. To seal the deal, I promised a free collage. I specified outright that I will make 2 collages using a software (which I stupidly didn't factor into the cost) and let them choose one. I ended up doing it for the next 6 months. I could just walk off and ask them to fly kite. But the nagging fear of being flamed in forums stopped me.

    In the meantime I raised my prices quickly. The level of appreciation and respect grows, strangely, with my pricing. It could be other factors, I'm not sure. But instead of having stand at the side of the banquet hall, having to rely on the mood of the waiters and waitresses just for a glass of water, I am now invited to join in the banquet, seated with bridesmaids and flower girls. The family of the latest wedding I shot (including extended family), addressed me by name. Urged me to eat when I had to shoot. In terms of deliverables, they let me have full control of what to deliver, what to include, how to deliver.

    If not for the fact that I aimed and pitched at clients who appreciate and are willing to pay for my services, I would have well ended up as one of my many friends who are frustrated with the 'unreasonable' demands (or rather, difficult) clients.
    Last edited by shinken; 12th May 2010 at 01:44 PM.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Thinking of earning from photography?

    I'm about to share the frustrations of another ex-photographer friend. I mean, a friend who shot part-time, and gave up on photography altogether.

    Because of his positive work-attitude in terms of delivering the expectations, he spent quite a bit on his equipment. 2 years ago, a rough breakdown of his equipment was:
    2 x 20D
    2 x 580EX
    1 x 17-40L
    1 x 85 1.8
    1 x 100 macro
    1 x 70-200
    He bought a mac just for the sake of commercial photography. Though he made excuses at the time of purchase, saying it's for his "passion".
    After a year of commercial photography, he realise his bank balance is going lower. He's not recouping his investments, he is losing money. And will lose more money. So he sold off all his equipment. The mac wasn't for his passion after all. This, coupled with some unplesant experiences, made him kiss photography goodbye.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Thinking of earning from photography?

    To sum up my long-winded post, the longest I believe, I've ever made, here are some considerations to make before you embark on commercial (paid) photography:

    1) Is this a once-off thing? Do you see yourself taking on more assignments in future? If yes, be wise about your pricing. The price you accept today is likely, or very well, will be, the pricing for tomorrow.

    2) Have you factored in all your costs? You will only know once you get the ball rolling. Try to think of all the expenses and money that flows out of your bank or wallet as you go about fulfilling the obligations of commercial photography.

    3) Are you up to it? Expectations will be expectations. Once you get paid, you are expected to deliver. In terms of skills as well as equipment (not to mention PR), are you ready? If you're not, and you still want to give it a shot, let your client know. And let your client decide. Otherwise, try to find other avenues to gain experience and exposure. Once you get paid, you are expected to deliver.

    4) What is your worth? This is a question that may continue to hassle your mind as a commercial photographer. Full-time or part-time. Look at the amount of money they are paying for X-person's work/svc. How much less are you charging? A general guide would be start at a point that is not lower than the industrial norm. Raise the price when demand exceeds supply. This price should also be sufficient to cover all the costs.

    .
    Last edited by shinken; 14th November 2009 at 03:20 PM.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Thinking of earning from photography?

    Oh yes, for those who shoot out of their kind charitable heart, it's a hazy and moralistic issue which I only dare to tread with caution. What I can say is, I've seen clients who had so much sob stories to tell, but able to buy that expensive condo, or spend 100k on reno, or have 50 tables at an amazing banquet venue, but somehow, no money for photography. I'm exaggerating of course. But real stories, different variations of the same stories, apply.

    For my very own story, I had a couple, or rather, a bride who decided to engage me even before my presentation. The husband was unwilling, because they could get one for half the price, or by today's standard, a smaller fraction of the price. In the end he relented for the persuasive wife. On the wedding day itself, I found that they are not well-off at all, from the place the live, their wedding budget, etc. Deeply touched by their appreciation of my work and respecting the value I place on my work, I repaid their appreciation by delivering more than what was promised.

    Everyone's on a budget. And this budget varies. I would shoot a wedding as a favor or charity. But deciding which would be tricky I guess.
    Last edited by shinken; 12th May 2010 at 01:46 PM.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Thinking of earning from photography?

    I sensed deep frustration

    My last wedding job was 10 yrs ago, got introduced by a friend to take up this job... met the couple at a 2rm flat in Bt Batok to quote & show portfolio.I quoted S$ 600/- which later, preached/begged by them to lower to $350/-.

    They negotiated in such manner that I took a 'pity' & accepted the price...what more could U asked from a 2roomer ?

    On the big day, I was totally hurt for what I encountered:- The man came in big Merc that I realised was his ! Shockwaves struck again when I reached a big house packed with posh cars in Katong & that was their nest He later showed his studio ablum around to relatives which I figured would cost 5 digits.

    This incident had me rethink what kind of photography I really wanted. It would not be the last time if I stayed on.NO NO No give chance anymore, I gave up wedding photography.

    I'm happy shooting advertising & other high value assignments now than to get involve in wedding photography.

    See the forum, U would notice the amount of cameramen & women in this **** trade, face it, U can't steer away from the variety of characters emerging from this lot whose many, would resort to anything- goes- attitude.

    Some out there really dun mind rotting the apple many many times.

    And beware of Well heeled Beggars !
    Last edited by Volks; 19th October 2006 at 08:14 PM.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Thinking of earning from photography?

    Quote Originally Posted by Volks View Post
    I sensed deep frustration

    My last wedding job was 10 yrs ago, got introduced by a friend to take up this job... met the couple at a 2rm flat in Bt Batok to quote & show portfolio.I quoted S$ 600/- which later, preached/begged by them to lower to $350/-.

    They negotiated in such manner that I took a 'pity' & accepted the price...what more could U asked from a 2roomer ?

    On the big day, I was totally hurt for what I encountered:- The man came in big Merc that I realised was his ! Shockwaves struck again when I reached a big house packed with posh cars in Katong & that was their nest He later showed his studio ablum around to relatives which I figured would cost 5 digits.

    This incident had me rethink what kind of photography I really wanted. It would not be the last time if I stayed on.NO NO No give chance anymore, I gave up wedding photography.

    I'm happy shooting advertising & other high value assignments now than to get involve in wedding photography.

    See the forum, U would notice the amount of cameramen & women in this **** trade, face it, U can't steer away from the variety of characters emerging from this lot whose many, would resort to anything- goes- attitude.

    Some out there really dun mind rotting the apple many many times. And beware of Beggars !
    Wow what an experience. They probably borrowed the 2 room flat for the purpose of just meeting with you and work on your sympathy.

  12. #12
    vince123123
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    Default Re: Thinking of earning from photography?

    Thumbs up to Shinken for this initiative. I recommend that this be moved to the General Discussions Subforum as Kopitiam is hardly the right place to put this.

  13. #13
    vince123123
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    Default Re: Thinking of earning from photography?

    I think in a business/commercial transaction, symptahy type price quoting should be avoided or at most given very little weight in consideration. It is business after all.

    Quote Originally Posted by jbma View Post
    Wow what an experience. They probably borrowed the 2 room flat for the purpose of just meeting with you and work on your sympathy.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Thinking of earning from photography?

    I guess this sense of fustration hits anyone who's doing wedding photography.

    But its good. To let people actually SEE what's truly behind the cost of a photographer even though, "Aiyah, press button only." That 1 press of the button decides ur living reputation as a photographer and I'm sure we all have our personal pride to upkeep and this idea of, "I do it for my PASSION! It BURNS within me! How can I let money-matters come in the way of my passion? Its not right! Its not moral!"

    Go ahead and fire me, but I'm sure most of u here would have encountered, at one point or another, ur clients trying to downplay the money issue by harping on ur love for photography and sweet-talking u in order to lower ur prices.

    Like someone once told me, "These days, people's automatic button spoil liaoz." If u dun play the bad guy by putting ur monetary terms and conditions in black and white, people are simply going to play u around simply for the sake of getting what they would lust after - cheap (free even better) photography services with high quality photos.

    If we don't deliver as such, we get fired upon. Our reputation goes down in shreds.
    If we deliver, we'll lose out in our pockets (we are human beings, need to eat, sleep, pay bills, etc).

    Damn if u do, damn if u don't.
    "Wonders of the Human Mind. Unfathomable to the highest degree."

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Thinking of earning from photography?

    Quote Originally Posted by vince123123 View Post
    I think in a business/commercial transaction, symptahy type price quoting should be avoided or at most given very little weight in consideration. It is business after all.
    I agree with you Vince but alas the truth is that some people have a soft heart. I have seen women with children begging at a holy place. They do this every Thursday without fail. Once everything is over they call a cab and goes home in it. I also know of a man who begs for a living. He wears tattered clothes for his 'job'. Then he drives home in his car.

    However this is not the point of this thread. Shinken has done an excellent job here in potraying his views.

  16. #16

    Default Re: Thinking of earning from photography?

    transport cost.

    meeting the clients needs time and money,

    confirming and collecting the retainer/deposit cost time and money.

    meeting a few days before the client's wedding cost time and money.

    going down to cover the wedding needs time and money.

    going home to rest in-between the festitivies cost time and money.

    going back to the dinner venue cost time and money.

    returning home from the long day cost time and money.

    meeting your clients to deliver your work cost time and money.

    that is just transport cost.

    albums,

    sample albums, sample prints, sample pictures, sample CDs
    electicity costs

    computers need power

    cameras need power

    flashes need power

    electric bills are going up again.
    hardware cost

    cameras cost money
    camera parts cost moeny
    lenses cost money
    lens hoods cost money
    filters cost money
    memony cards cost money
    batteries cost money
    flashes cost money

    camera bags cost money
    computers cost money
    ram cost money
    harddisk cost money
    monitors cost money
    mouse, keypads, card readers, cost money
    extention cords cost money
    tables and chairs that you sit to edit your photos cost money
    going to buy these equipment cost time and money.

    softcopy costs

    photoshop cost money
    software to enhance your pictures cost money
    other photo editing. enchaning slideshow software cost money
    anti-virus software cost money
    internet cost money




    real or fake software, also need money to buy.

    bills

    phonebills need to be paid
    servers need to be paid
    marketing tools need to be paid
    salary needs to be paid

    cost of sales

    CDs need money
    DVDs need money
    covers need money
    paper need money
    ink need money
    paperback need money

    office?

    rental bills, car bills, tables, chairs, lights, water, fridge etc........

    albums,

    sample albums, sample prints, sample pictures, sample CDs
    Last edited by Belle&Sebastain; 20th October 2006 at 11:20 AM.

  17. #17

    Default Re: Thinking of earning from photography?

    Quote Originally Posted by Belle&Sebastain View Post
    softcopy costs

    photoshop cost money
    software to enhance your pictures cost money
    other photo editing. enchaning slideshow software cost money
    anti-virus software cost money
    internet cost money


    real or fake software, also need money to buy.
    Very materialistic world.... everything about money... no wonder pple commiting sucide or turn to terrorism...

  18. #18

    Default Re: Thinking of earning from photography?

    Quote Originally Posted by Belle&Sebastain View Post
    cost of sales

    CDs need money
    DVDs need money
    covers need money
    paper need money
    ink need money
    paperback need money
    I NEED MONEY....

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Thinking of earning from photography?

    i salute you, well done

  20. #20

    Default Re: Thinking of earning from photography?

    I wish I had this to read Its a good thing my chosen area of speciality is pretty quiet. I have no intentions of going into this full time but more like one of those part itme students =p. Still what you have mentioned about the extra costs of having backups and devlivering the goods is true. I had a lens fail on me the night before an event and had to make emergency arrangements to get a rental, very nightmarish...
    Furry Photos - Photography for the Modern Pet

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